As a columnist, I get paid to share my opinions on politics. However, I'll be the first one to admit that sometimes people should keep their opinions to themselves.
Such was the case on Sunday night, when sportscaster Bob Costas used his airtime during Sunday Night Football to advocate gun control. He did this in the wake of the Kasandra Perkins-Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, where a Kansas City Chiefs football player murdered his girlfriend and then himself in front of his coach and general manager.
He quoted an article from Fox Sports writer Jason Whitlock criticizing handguns and stating, "If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today." Costas has since defended his remarks, saying, "I sincerely doubt any would have said 'I agree 100 percent with Costas‚ but it's not his right to do it at half of a football game.'" Well, as much as I respect Costas as a sportscaster and a journalist, I will say that.
I don't agree 100 percent — I think it's incredibly presumptuous to say that they would still be alive without the gun. An angry, emotionally unstable football player certainly has enough strength to kill a woman without a gun or any other weapon.
I do agree on his larger point of gun control and the point he made that handguns don't improve safety. Costas has since clarified his support for gun control that doesn't include a repeal of the Second Amendment, allows guns for personal protection or hunting and bans assault weapons. That is a perfectly reasonable position.
It's not reasonable to use a space normally reserved for football talk to make a political statement on handguns that really has nothing to do with the case at hand. Now, did he have the right? Absolutely. Should he have? Absolutely not.
Costas says his only mistake is not saying more, and says he didn't "hijack" the broadcast. "If it started a conversation about it, that's a good thing," he said on MSNBC. He has, in fact, diverted the conversations that should have taken place. A potential one about concussions, as it was revealed that Belcher recently suffered from a possible concussion. A potential one about domestic violence, as the couple had been separated and arguing for some time.
If anything, this takes away from the conversation about gun control. Not every gun violence death could be prevented by better gun control, including probably this case. Sometimes the adage is true: guns don't kill people, people kill people. What can be prevented are Virginia Techs, Auroras and Tucsons, cases where people that are mentally ill obtained assault weapons.
If we rush to judgment every time a gun-related tragedy happens in this country, as many did in Tucson by assuming political motivations, it takes away from this debate. Every time we talk about it in the wrong forum, be it a sheriff's press conference or a sportscaster's commentary, things don't get any better.
Bob Costas had every right to do what he did. He also has the right to write his congressman, hold a rally, talk about it on his talk show, do interviews or promote his views any other way. Those would probably be better ways to change the country's gun culture than starting a national controversy by promoting his political views on America's most-watched TV show.
Costas earned my respect back in 2005 for refusing to host a program covering the Natalee Holloway disappearance, also a media circus obscuring a real tragedy. "I didn't think the subject matter was the kind of broadcast I should be doing," Costas said back then. He should have made the same decision on Sunday night and left the politics out of a football game.